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掌門人 (1983)
The Lady Is the Boss

Reviewed by: kiliansabre
Date: 12/10/2007
Summary: An inferior comedy that doesn't hold up

Liu Chia-Liang plays Wang Hsieh Yun, a teacher of a martial arts school teacher who has just reopened the school after having to move due to the government building a road where the school once stood. The school's original master was to come and help open the school, but sends his Americanized daughter Mei Ling (Kara Hui) in his place, hence making her the senior and boss. Mei Ling feels Master Wang's techniques are old fashioned and take to long to learn, boasting that her father has changed the way he teaches and that she is the authority on how it should be done. The school has only five students upon her arrival and in an effort to gain more students they publicly try to put the word out, recruiting most of the new class from a modern dance hall. Unfortunately some of the girls work in a sleazy night club and the bosses are none too impressed when the girls use what martial arts they've learned to fend off perverted clients. When the boss beats the girls Mei Ling comes to set things straight, but finds that she underestimated what she was going up against leaving it up to Master Wong and his five original students to save the day.

I hate to say it, but Lui Chia-Liang has missed his mark with this one. This is more of a comedy than a martial arts film, so much so that the first 'real' fight scene doesn't take place until almost an hour into the movie! With a cast full of greats such as Gordon Liu, Hsiao Ho, and Wong Yu it's a shame that they are for the most part wasted talent here. The mentioned Bmx bike scene really wasn't hugely impressive aside from a few creative moves. There is somewhat of a pay off: the finale is a treat inside a gymnasium using the equipment in the room as props. Here we also see Hsiao Ho reprising his 'Mad Monkey' role and Gordon Lui impersonating monk San Ta. Unfortunately the entire scene runs only about five minutes long and though the martial arts are impressive in this scene, it's a bit late to try to save this production.

The main focus theme here is on the debate between keeping martial arts traditional and more pure or modernizing it and making it more wide spread. There is no real strong argument for either presented here and though there is resolution it's more of just a final joke than anything with any real impact or thought behind it. The comedy was poor for the most part, with jokes that mostly have to do with people acting goofy and cliche.

This movie has been compared to My Young Auntie, but aside from a Kara Hui playing the senior to Liu Chia-Liang there isn't a lot of similarity. My Young Auntie is a vastly superior production on almost all levels, perhaps this was made as an after thought trying to utilize the premise, though obviously things were muddled in the delivery here. If you are a die hard fan of the director or talent involved, skip all but that last ten minutes, it's really the only portion that holds a candle to anything else Liu Chia-Liang has done.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 09/18/2007

THE LADY IS THE BOSS seems like the final part of a trilogy of films by Lau Kar-Leung exploring tradition, the change in social attitudes over time and female liberation – themes that were hardly staples of the Shaw Brothers’ (or indeed, any Hong Kong company’s) output at that time. It’s probably entirely unintentional, but this feels like a relative of 1978’s sublime HEROES OF THE EAST and the worthy 1981 production MY YOUNG AUNTIE. All three have the same underlying theme and share an unusual trait for films of this genre – no one is killed and there’s very little ‘violence’ on screen.

That said, this is definitely a bit more barbed than either of the other two films. The main plot focuses on Mei-Ling (Kara Hui) coming to Hong Kong to run the martial arts school currently being taught by Wang (Lau Kar-Leung). Upon her arrival from the USA (Hui is seen chewing gum throughout and slanging English and Cantonese with a wantonness that leaves the poor Chinese traditionalists reeling), she despairs of the old-fashioned methods of teaching and Wang’s insistence on quality over quantity. You see, the school has just five pupils, and training in stances alone takes one full year! Mei-Ling comes in and revamps the school, getting lots of new students in the process. Among the new recruits are a bunch of nightclub workers, whose boss is not too happy that his ladies are being taught ways of fending off the advances of their clients. As the boss is played by veteran bad-boy Johnny Wong, we’ve got a pretty good idea where things are going to end up.

THE LADY IS THE BOSS must have looked dazzlingly modern back in 1983; which is to say it looks horribly dated now. We’ve got neon pink outfits, effeminate men wearing lipstick, terribly tinny disco music and even a few BMX bicycles – all the hallmarks of a true 80’s production! It all serves to make viewing the film all the more enjoyable, and no fan of the decade will be disappointed. Besides, it makes a change from all the period pieces being churned out at the time by the studio.

Comedy plays a strong part in the film, and while the attempts at humour aren’t as bad as other Shaw productions, it still occasionally grates. Like its predecessors, most of the humour is derived from the situations and the views of the traditionally minded versus the radical. In places, the film plays a little too much like MY YOUNG AUNTIE for its own good in this regard, and occasionally you can’t help but feel that you’ve seen it before.

Surprisingly, the kung fu is downplayed for much of the movie in favour of comedy skits and other action scenes (including, as has been mentioned above, a short sequence involving BMX bikes). When it does kick off, though, it’s pretty impressive. With the likes of Wong Yu (of DIRTY HO fame), Lau Kar-Fai, Hsiao Ho et al (not to mention Lau Kar-Leung himself), you know you’re going to get something special. You have to wait a while, but you do get it eventually. In the film's most memoable scene, which takes place in a gymnasium, we see Lau Kar-Fai playing a man playing San Te and Hsiao Ho doing his Mad Monkey routine. You’d be wrong to think there’s a good reason, plot-wise, for them doing it, but then there’s not a lot of reason involved in most of this film!

In the final analysis, there’s a feeling that subconsciously Lau Kar-Leung was still siding with tradition in this film, despite the “old guard” being shown as outdated and a trifle ridiculous. The five young men who trained under the old master still have far superior skills than anyone trained under Mei-Ling, and the “fast-track” training employed by her could be seen to be portraying “modern” martial arts training techniques in a derogatory light. But I could be looking into it a bit too deeply, there. It is, after all, an action comedy, and as they go, you could do worse than this 84-minute mini-celebration of 80’s kitsch.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/18/2004
Summary: Not bad........

i saw the trailer for this movie and it impressed me enough to buy the movie.

I was though a little disappointed with it. Sure the comedy works, the action is too a high standard thanks to Liu Chia Liang, but i think the pace was a bit too fast. The movie felt like it should of gone on for a little longer. I am not sure why i didn't like thsi movie more


Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 04/06/2004
Summary: Solid Kung fu Comedy

"The Lady Is The Boss" (1983) is a Cantonese kung fu comedy of cultural differences, as "juk-sing" Kara Hui Ying-Hung travels from America to Hong Kong to take over as the boss of a martial arts academy. She's at odds with the sifu Lau Kar Leung in a battle of old vs. new ideas for recruiting students. Kara gets caught up in the local triad scene by training hostesses of a mob boss, who doesn't take kindly to the girls' new kung fu attitude, which has them denying customers who are trying to cop a feel. The conflict builds until the climax where the mob takes on Kara and company in a gymnasium: A perfect setting to open a can of whoopass.

Lau Kar Leung does a fine job of blending the comedy with action as the film breezes along for 90 minutes. Kara Hui also does a commendable job playing an American with that "can-do" spirit, while delivering Chinese and English in her dialogue. "The Lady Is The Boss" is a fine example of the kung fu, action comedy of the '80s. Dig those '80s outfits, too.

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 06/08/2002

I thought this flick and My Young Auntie where very similar. Instead of focusing on the family relationship such as My Young Auntie , this flick focused more on the student to teacher relationship. When you throw in the way that traditional gung fu is taught to the modern student, that is, strict, stern, no frills style of the old school traditional school juxtaposed to the modern, laid back, “fun” way of the new school style, you will have a movie formula that should be a bunch of fun. Right? Not quite. The flick just basically just sails on through for about an hour or so as the modern style of gung fu led by the daughter of the Hua Chiang gym, Chan Mei Ling (Kara Hui), butts heads with the former Sifu of the gym, Wang Hsieh Yun (Liu Chia Liang) in their ways of teaching the handful of students of the gym. All the students practically leave Wang Sifu for Mei Ling. How sad! Eventually, Mei Ling gets into trouble with the local gang bosses (Lung Tien Sheng and Wang Lung Wei) over the beating of some her students. Eventually, Sifu Wang must save Mei Ling’s hide and man, does he ever! The last 20 to 30 minutes are the best part of the flick. Fights, fights, fights galore. There is a pretty decent scene with Kara Hui and her gang roughing up the baddies on their bikes. Shortly after, you’ll get to see old man Liu Chia Liang get down in a bar and in gym as he fights Wang Lung Wei and makes him look stupid. Hsiao Ho doing his mad monkey fist on the bad guys was a sight to behold. This guy is amazing! The last twenty minutes alone is all you need to see.